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After receiving diplomas, Takya Gilmore and Richard Gay are congratulated during the May 2019 graduation.

Thomson High School has increased its graduation rate from 76.56 percent to 82.2 percent, beating the state’s rate.

The McDuffie County Board of Education announced that the graduation rate improved nearly 6 percent, which is above the state’s graduation rate of 82 percent, which is less than a half-point increase from 2018 to 2019.

“Our graduation rate is the best that it has been in five years,” Schools Superintendent Mychele Rhodes said as she made the graduation rate increase announcement to the Board of Education on Sept. 12. The official announcement was made Sept. 18.

McDuffie County's 2019 graduation rate increase, at nearly 6 percent, is the second highest among all districts in the CSRA RESA area and a cumulative improvement of 16 points over the last five years, Rhodes said.

For the first time since the inception of the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), all sub-groups of McDuffie County students-black, white, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged pupils-reported by the Georgia Department of Education exceeded the graduation rate targets set by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement, she said.  

“This is a huge accomplishment,” Rhodes said. ““As a community, this is an accomplishment in which we all take pride,” she said.

The graduation rate is a very important way to check the pulse of the students and how students are matriculating through school and their success in the McDuffie County school system, the superintendent said.

McDuffie County Board of Education members applauded exuberantly when Rhodes informed the body of the 5.64 percent increase over the last school year.

“This is huge,” she said. “I really wish I could put into words how hard it is to move one point on the grad rate, much less to almost six points.”

Rhodes described the rate increase “as some heavy lifting” from the students and teachers at Thomson High School and she commended the leadership of Principal Trevor Roberson.

 “I am a strong believer that school culture determines an enormous amount of the success of children and the willingness of children and teachers who push a little bit harder,” Rhodes said.

According to Roberson, school leaders are trying to make Thomson High School a supportive place for students, teachers, parents, and stakeholders.

“I think that is part of why the graduation rate went up.,”  Roberson said.  The principal also credits the increase  to the faculty and staff at The McDuffie Achievement Center, the district’s alternative public learning center for students in sixth to 12th grade.

“Last year, they graduated more students than they ever had, which means that Mr. Steve Strouble and the faculty and staff went above and beyond the call of duty,”  Roberson said.

The McDuffie County school district attributes the graduation rate increase to a commitment to prepare graduates for college, career and life.

According to the district, there are several initiatives that may be attributed to the Thomson High School graduation rate increase.  Among them are:

•Specialized reading and math support classes

•Ongoing formative assessments to identify areas for re-teaching or acceleration

•Offering high school courses to middle school pupils in English language arts, math, science, fine arts, and Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE)

•Expanded dual enrollment and Advanced Placement opportunities

•Growing work-based learning partnerships, including the Jumpstart apprenticeship program, with area industries and local businesses

•New CTAE career pathways, including drafting and design, early childhood education, computer science, cybersecurity, and welding.

•Development of Individual Graduation Plans, updated annually in grades 8-12 with the student’s assigned guidance counselor

•High school credit recovery options through the McDuffie Achievement Center and Thomson High School summer and evening school programs

•Embedded credit repair opportunities to demonstrate mastery of individual concepts while a course is still in session

•Addition of the REACH Scholarship Program with mentors and academic coaches for recipients

“The McDuffie County School System salutes the students, parents, school employees, and citizens for their continued support of the district’s mission,” the board said in a media release.

In addition to McDuffie County improving its graduation rate, the Warren County School System announced that Warren County High School’s graduation rate for 2018-2019 was 86 percent, beating the states average of 82 percent.

“We are extremely pleased that the Warren County Schools four-year graduation rates continues to be high, exceeding the state average since at least 2011,” said Superintendent Carole Jean Carey.

 “We are committed to providing students with the best education possible, preparing them for post-high school success within four years of high school, while offering dual enrollment courses through Oconee Fall Technical College.”

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the graduation rate across the state continues to rise and has increased by 12 percent since the state began using a mandated adjusted cohort calculation.

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